Baby Boomers Face Financial Anxiety

By Susan Tompor
Detroit Free Press.

Gabriella Barthlow, 52, totally gets it when people talk about the financial anxiety some people 50 and older are feeling.

While the recession is over, Barthlow says some people who should feel good about the prospects of retirement are fearful because they’re stuck stringing together a variety of jobs to keep paying their bills.

They’re living examples of “giganomics”, where people tap into their assorted skills and contacts to make money for daily living. The word “gig” once was used mainly to apply to bands or musicians. But Barthlow said the gig now could mean selling chocolate, acting as a chauffeur, or taking on extra odd jobs, all stuff she did after losing better-paying work.

“I am the queen of giganomics,” said Barthlow, who runs a financial education and coaching firm called the Alpha Advisory Group. “You have to adjust until you’re back on track with what you want to do.”

Barthlow says she didn’t want to make $8 or $10 an hour as she had to do for some odd jobs. She took what work she could to “keep it moving” during about a four-year slump.

Only recently, she said, she obtained a good contract that will involve offering financial counseling to military members who are transitioning to civilian life.

She is moving back on financial track.

“I’m more optimistic. I’ve gotten to the ‘other side.’ But how about the people that haven’t yet?” she said.

Overall, many people feel better about their job security, debt levels, net worth and overall financial situation compared with how they felt a year ago, according to the latest Bankrate Financial Security Index.

But when it comes to people age 50 and older, just 13 percent of that group said they are feeling better about their savings than they were a year ago. Only 17 percent in the 50 and older group felt better about their job security than they did a year ago. And 19 percent of that group reported a better overall financial situation, according to the Bankrate Financial Security Index.

Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for, said those in the 50-plus group may be feeling more uncertain about their jobs, and some could be making less money working than they did before the recession or last layoff.

The stock market has bounced back and the Dow Jones industrial average has risen above 18,000 but many baby boomers may have dumped their stock investments long ago.

“This is a group that was more prone to bailing out of the stock market after the 2008 crash and not getting back in,” McBride said.

“Those that hung in there, they’ve more than recovered and then some. Those boomers that bailed, they’re still standing on the platform but the train is long gone.”

Adding to woes: Low interest rates.

Retirees who put a savings in certificates of deposit are seeing miserably low rates of return, nothing like the 5 percent a year on CDs that some saw before the economic downturn.

In contrast, the Bankrate survey indicated that millennials are feeling better about their finances.

About 32 percent of those ages 18 to 29 report higher job security relative to a year ago.
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Overall, about 23 percent of employed Americans are feeling better about their job security than they did in April 2014, according to the survey.

About 30 percent of millennials say their savings are in better shape now than a year ago, compared with 20 percent of Americans overall.

When it comes to net worth, millennials do feel they’re still lagging behind. About 18 percent of millennials reported a higher net worth than a year ago, 22 percent of those 50 and older reported a higher net worth, and 23 percent overall reported a higher net worth.

The most positive sentiment was observed among those 30 to 49, with 29 percent of that group reporting a higher net worth than a year ago.

“It completely refutes the notion that millennials are completely buried in student debt, can’t get jobs and are still living with mom and dad,” McBride said.

Overcoming financial anxiety requires patience and persistence for anyone in any age group.

Barthlow advises people who are worried about their finances to take control and look at how they’re spending their money, as well as their opportunities to make more money.

Maybe a buyout or a retirement has not worked out as some expected. If so, one needs to adjust and make some changes.

“Being flexible is key to the game,” Barthlow said.

For some, it may be necessary to ditch a shoe or a clothing habit. Some might need to stop writing checks to a family member who needs financial help. Others might need to cut back on vacations or eating out.

And some might need to learn how to deal with “giganomics” and find extra work for a year or two to get through a slump.

Barthlow said she knows one man in his 60s who is willing to work like a teenager to keep up with the bills and take care of family members.

Others, though, aren’t willing to adjust to some new realities.

“A lot of folks are on automatic pilot, and they don’t want to think about what they’re doing,” she said.
Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

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